Mabel was going to be the next top child model. I’d been convinced by a number of people telling me that she was so photogenic that I needed to send her picture in to some model agencies.
And, I was a little surprised when she was shortlisted down from over 3000 to the last 150. Surprised and delighted.
“See?” I told my unimpressed and very sceptical hubby. “She is model material, after all.”
I told my dad. He just laughed then pointed out the obvious; “She doesn’t really do what you tell her to do, do you think she’ll do what a photographer is asking her to do?”
Hmmmm. Fair point.
I read the small print. It stated that she would need to be willing to go into the room on her own and chat to the agency people, as if it were a real casting. I convinced myself that she’d be fine. I mean, I can’t shut her up most days, so I reasoned in my own head that she’d love it. My dad’s words were echoing round my head, but I chose to ignore them.
Then, a few days before the “audition” I decided I would assert my authority and ask my daughter to wear her jeans. They’re cute skinny jeans. They look gorgeous on her. Here’s a little test, I thought.
“I am the Mummy,” I said calmly. “Sometimes I make the decisions around here.”
Five minutes later: “They’re just jeans, Mabel. They’re lovely. You look cute!”
Ten minutes after that: “It’s just tough, I’m afraid, darling. Your dancing skirts are all in the wash.”
Half an hour later: “YOU ARE WEARING THOSE JEANS! IT IS NOT UP FOR DISCUSSION!”
After 3 hours I gave in and she put on a white dress with endless layers of tulle and lace. An old bridesmaid’s dress of Martha’s from around 7 years ago. She went on her scooter in it and dribbled spaghetti bolognese down the front of it. At least the jeans remained clean.
The next day I contacted the agency. It was time to wake up to the glaringly obvious fact that my daughter is not model material. I explained there was no way my daughter would do as she was asked by me, let alone a stranger. The woman has clearly never had someone decline such an exclusive casting and seemed shocked. Rather the humiliation of turning down the audition slot, I reckoned, than the utter waste of time and public humiliation that would inevitably await me should I risk it.
I remember being in Brownies, well before the uniform was quite cool. This was back in the day when we wore brown bobble hats and a brown pinafore. There was no yellow in sight, definitely no hoodies and the only caps were the ones a very unfortunate girl had to have on her teeth after falling over during a fast and furious game of rounders.
The Girl Guides and the Brownies were coming together for an annual performance. Some of the mums and all the Brownie and Guide leaders were going to be in it. I remember my mother in some sketch with other ladies and a very smiley man, singing the 50’s song “Seven Little Girls.” I remember them all being in stitches at rehearsal and it going down incredibly well with the audience on the night. Looking back there was probably lots of sexual, hilarious innuendo that went over my 8 year old head.
Four or five Guides were also doing a performance to Sandie Shaw’s “Puppet on a String” and they needed a Brownie each to pretend to be their puppets. After a short dance audition, I was chosen to be one of the puppets. My mother was delighted. Perhaps it was because I had excelled in dance. Perhaps she was just pleased she wouldn’t be the only one of our family humiliating themselves on stage.
I remember staying mute when they announced my name. Inside I was horrified. There was no way I wanted to do it. I felt teary and embarrassed but I said nothing. Until later, when I burst into tears and told my mother I didn’t want to do it. No way. Never. Not under any circumstances would I get on that stage and pretend to be attached to string. No.
She was very understanding and had a quiet word with Brown Owl the next day. I was off the hook.
She’d have a good giggle at Mabel now and would very probably be more understanding of my daughter than I am. She would reprimand me and remind me of how I would always take off any trousers she put on me as a toddler and wander the house in just my nappy, as I only ever wanted to wear pretty dresses. She would point out that I am more similar to my youngest daughter than I would like to believe. More alike, possibly than we are different. She might well remind me of the time in Brownies when I didn’t want to perform or do as I was asked, but remind me that I sang two solos in the school play just a year or two later. She might suggest that my daughter is a little young and that she will come into her own when she’s ready. She might also suggest that Mabel will always be….well, Mabel.
She will say all these things when I wake up from this dreadful dream. A pretty awful dream where my 67 year-old mother is in a care home; cannot do anything for herself, cannot speak, cannot eat without assistance and has trouble standing and walking.
When I wake up I’ll give her a call and we’ll talk it through and we’ll laugh.
We’ll laugh about how I could have possibly thought Mabel would ever be a compliant model.
We’ll laugh about our memories of that Brownie show and her performance singing “Seven Little Girls” and how one man having seven little girls in his car would nowadays raise a few eyebrows!
I’ll tell her about my horrid dream and she’ll say; “If I ever get like that, just shoot me!”
Then we’ll laugh again, get out the glasses and put the world to rights over a bottle of wine.
I just need to wake up now.
Miss you, Mum x